One of the most important rules regarding sex and sexual activity is consent. More specifically, people must be of a certain age to provide valid consent for sexual activity.
People of varying ages may provide valid consent to sexual activity under the right circumstances. The age of 16 is often referred to as “the age of consent,” but younger people can also provide valid consent. Romeo and Juliet laws cover consensual sex between someone younger than 16 with a partner less than 4 years older. If you are charged with a sexual offense because the alleged victim was too young to consent, you might face serious criminal penalties, including possible incarceration and registration as a sex offender. An attorney can help you review your case and determine the best defense strategies to help you.
Even if a young person provides explicit consent before engaging in sexual activity, that consent is invalid if the person is too young. Our Philadelphia sexual assault defense lawyers can help you defend yourself against these charges. For a free case review, call The Law Offices of Lloyd Long at (215) 302-0171.
What is the Age of Consent in Pennsylvania?
The age of consent is widely regarded as the age at which a person can legally consent to sex and sexual activities. In Pennsylvania, the age of consent is generally considered to be 16 years old. However, people younger than 16 can also give valid consent, depending on the age of their partner. If your partner was too young to provide legally valid consent, you might face criminal charges for certain sexual offenses.
Consent from People Younger Than 13
People younger than 13 can never consent to sex or sexual activity. Any sexual activities involving someone younger than 13 are almost always criminal offenses. Even if someone younger than 13 provides consent, it is not legally valid. While certain laws protect young defendants, these laws do not usually apply to cases involving people under 13. You might be charged even if you are only a year or two older than the 12-year-old victim. You can contact our Pennsylvania sex crimes defense lawyers for help immediately in such cases.
Age of Consent for Teens Aged 13 through 15
Laws about the age of consent become more complicated when the people involved are at least 13 years old. These laws, commonly called Romeo and Juliet laws, serve to protect young people who consent to sexual activity with similarly aged young people. This law can be found in numerous statutes regarding sexual crimes and typically covers people at least 13 years old but younger than 16.
Under Romeo and Juliet laws, it is not a crime for two people within the above-mentioned age range (ages 13 through 15) to have sex or engage in sexual activity with each other. It is also legal for someone within this age range to consent to sex with someone above the age range (i.e., 16 or older) as long as they are under 4 years apart. Most cases involving Romeo and Juliet laws apply to teenage romance and dating. If you are 4 or more years older than the alleged victim, criminal charges might be assessed against you.
Age of Consent at 16 and Older
The age that most people think of as the age of consent is 16. When people turn 16, they may provide valid consent for sex or sexual activity with someone older than them. However, while a 16 or 17-year-old can consent to sex with someone older, certain criminal charges might apply if the other person is too old, usually more than about 10 years. At age 18, there are no more legal restrictions.
A 16-year-old individual can provide consent for sex with someone older. However, Romeo and Juliet laws might apply if their partner is younger than 16. If you are facing criminal charges for sexual activity with someone at least 16 years old, our Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers can help you fight the charges.
Penalties for Sexual Activity with Someone Below the Age of Consent in Pennsylvania
There are numerous criminal charges and penalties for sexual activity with someone too young to provide consent. The severity of your charges often depends on the alleged victim’s age. Charges related to alleged victims younger than 13 tend to be the most harshly punished. Our Delaware criminal defense lawyers can help you face these or similar allegation head-on.
If the alleged victim was younger than 13, you could be charged with the rape of a child younger than 13 under 18 Pa.C.S. § 3121(c). If convicted, you might face up to 40 years in prison. If the alleged victim sustained serious bodily injuries, you might face up to life in prison.
If an alleged victim is younger than the necessary age of consent, defendants can be charged with statutory sexual assault under 18 Pa.C.S. § 3122.1 or involuntary deviate sexual intercourse under 18 Pa.C.S. § 3123(a)(7), depending on the specific conduct. For example, a defendant may be charged with statutory sexual assault for sex with an alleged victim that is at least 13 but younger than 16 if the defendant is at least 4 years older. Charges might also apply if the victim is younger than 13 under a different statute. Such charges are for first-degree felonies punishable by up to 20 years in prison. For defendants at least 11 years older, first-degree felony charges may be assessed, and punishments include prison time up to 20 years.
Defending Yourself if Your Partner was Below the Age of Consent in Pennsylvania
Criminal charges for sexual offenses tend to be severe, and charges involving particularly young victims may be even more harshly punished. It is important to talk to our Pennsylvania sex crimes defense lawyers about your case so we can develop the best defense strategies possible.
While the alleged victim’s age is often at the center of these kinds of cases, a mistake as to age might or might not be a valid defense under 18 Pa.C.S. § 3102, depending on the alleged victim’s age. If the criminality of the offense depends on the alleged victim being younger than 14, defendants cannot defend themselves by explaining that they reasonably believed the victim was older. For example, the age cutoff for rape of a child, as mentioned above, is 13, so a mistake of age is inapplicable as a defense. However, a mistake as to age might be a defense if the victim is below a certain age above 14.
For example, if the alleged victim must be younger than 16 for criminal charges to be assessed, but you reasonably believed the victim was 18, you can claim this mistake as to age as a defense. Even so, the belief must be reasonably held, and we need evidence to support your claims. For example, if the alleged victim showed you a fake I.D. to prove their age, we need the I.D. as evidence of your claims.
Call Our Pennsylvania Sex Crimes Defense Attorneys for a Free Case Review
If you are facing charges for having sex or engaging in sexual activities with someone too young to provide consent, our Montgomery County criminal defense attorneys can help you figure out what to do. For a free case review, call The Law Offices of Lloyd Long at (215) 302-0171.